4S Council Meeting, 11 November 2019

In attendance: Hsin-Hsing Chen, Duygu Kasdogan, Stephen Zehr, Katie Ulrich, Wes Shrum, Bryn Whiteley, Paige Miller, Noortje Marres, Roopali Phadke, Pablo Kreimer, Kim Fortun, Aadita Chaudhury, Joan Fujimura, Angela Okune, María Belén Albornoz, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, Noela Invernizzi, Ana Viseu

Meeting brought to order at 8:15 am U.S. Eastern Time by Joan Fujimura.

Motion by Noortje Marres to approve the September Council meeting minutes. Seconded by María Belén Albornoz.  Minutes approved unanimously with an amended correction in wording of the steady state budget of the society from $450,000-$500,000 to $400,000-$500,000.

Budget: Wes Shrum and Paige Miller.  Shrum noted the meaning of budget, which involves a prediction of the financial state of the society rather than an actual current accounting.  Miller described the current budget, breaking it down by expenses and revenue (known and predicted).  The other disaggregation in her budgeting report is between meeting and non-meeting expenses.  Miller noted that non-meeting expenses have increased on a regular basis.  This past year the society bore the additional expense of website redesign.  Miller added that the distinction between meeting and non-meeting expenses is subject to interpretation.  Miller reported that the society has roughly $200,000 annual non-meeting expenses.  The main source of revenue is the annual meeting registration.  We receive travel grant money from NSF and other sources, but Miller noted that more money was spent on travel grants than revenue received this year.  Revenues also are received from Sage and from sale of the Handbook.  4S began the year with about $440,000.  Miller predicted that we’ll end the year with $100,000 less, which also falls below the Council approved steady state passed during Gary Downey’s presidency.  Miller indicated that there is no need for panic and predicted that the next two meetings will increase revenues.  Miller also provided background information on the Council approved need for a steady state budget, which provides the society with protection against an emergency situation involving the annual meeting.

Discussion of Budget: Joan Fujimura posed clarification questions about the budget accounting.  In response, Miller predicted that we will end the year at about $341,000.  Noortje Marres questioned the relationship between meeting revenue from dues and registration and meeting expenses — is it customary to lose $100,000 a year?  Miller responded that there were several experiments at this year’s annual meeting that led to cost overruns.  Marres asked whether we can be certain it will not be repeated.  Miller responded that Council will make that determination.  Marres also asked about the cost of journals relative to Sage revenues.  Marres noted that investments in ESTS are an important consideration since it brings in no revenue.  Fujimura also asked about Sage revenues and journal costs.  Miller noted that, among other revenue, Sage pays the annual editor charges for ST&HV.  Marres mentioned that in Europe open access to research articles is required, which may mean that we need article processing charges (APC) revenue in the future for ESTS.  Fujimura asked about speakers, microphones, and other equipment expenses at the annual meeting – are those charges higher than normal?  Shrum indicated that these costs were a bit higher than other years.  Providers are both internal and external.  Shrum noted that we had more plenaries and more microphones in rooms, which added to costs.  Shrum added that the society could purchase small belt type microphones in the future that could be used in smaller rooms to reduce costs.  Fujimura indicated that for the Prague meeting, we will not use graduated registration charges and we’ll reduce the total number of receptions.  The banquet will be held at a castle on an island.  The plan now is to make the banquet an open reception without charge.  Marres recommended that we further discuss the issue of receptions, banquet costs, and registration structures at future Council meetings.  Shrum indicated that the Prague meeting will likely get us back on track financially due to lower meeting costs in Prague.  Shrum added that eliminating graduated registration costs itself will get us back on track financially.  However, Shrum said that there was still uncertainty whether the graduated registration system was indeed being dropped.  A question was posed about undergraduate travel.  Some society money was used for travel grants for U.S. based undergraduates.  Kim Fortun asked why the costs of the New Orleans meeting were higher than Boston and Sydney, adding that perhaps we need to increase registration fees.  Shrum responded that costs of receptions and other expenses were higher and the graduated registration fee structure made it difficult to predict revenue.  We normally use a predicted 90% rate of attendees from original abstract submissions to determine registration revenue.  Normally, revenue would have been higher, but the graduated registrations installed this year significantly reduced revenue.  Marres suggested that we think about Prague budgeting in reference to prior EASST/4S conference budgets.  Fujimura asked Shrum and Miller to provide budget information on past non-EASST conferences compared to EASST/4S conferences for our December meeting.  Shrum indicated that 4S has limited information for the Barcelona conference since it used an EASST budgeting system.  Marres will contact Barcelona organizers and Teun Zuiderent-Jerak will contact Rotterdam and Paris organizers, and Fujimura will contact Copenhagen organizers for budgeting information prior to our December meeting.  Fortun suggested that we consider the whole budget in deliberations.  Angela Okune spoke up about the need for wifi at conferences and whether costs of wifi access might be reduced.  Fujimura will form a committee to review overall budgeting.  Marres added that the Publications Committee will need to be actively engaged in discussions about budgeting in the current open access environment.  Fujimura added that we need to consider investment strategies for Society revenue as well.  Katie Ulrich asked about Sheraton costs – food, coffees, etc. and whether we have a break down of those costs.  At current registration figures, Shrum indicated average costs of about $35,000 per reception.  Ulrich wondered if we could obtain a per person cost for future budget planning.

Annual Meeting: Shrum provided an overview of annual meeting budgeting, clarifying that some budget items can’t be estimated until after registration closes, while other costs are subject to variability.  Childcare costs were kept low this year due to the altered approach of reimbursing individuals who used childcare rather than providing childcare arrangements in advance.  We also had an insurance cost this year due to guard the society against hurricane season.  We negotiated our wifi costs down this year significantly by not accepting early offers and we’ll use that lower cost in future negotiations.  At that point, to move the meeting forward, Fujimura recommended that additional questions about the annual meeting be sent to the secretary.

Prague Meeting: Fujimura indicated that we’re working on arrangements for the Prague conference.  One emerging issue has been a low rate of participation from the global South.  Meeting organizers are making efforts to increase communication and participation.  Some interesting panel proposals have been received.  Organizers are planning on one plenary and six sub-plenaries.  Big data, politics of explanation, locating matters, timing matters, environmental sustainability, and the academy at this time of climate and ecological emergencies are sub-plenaries in the planning stage.  Fujimura reported that conference organizers are doing an excellent job.

Future meetings tabled to next meeting.

Publications: Regarding editor succession at ESTS, Fujimura expressed her preference for discussion of the one proposal currently submitted.  Before discussion began, questions about potential conflict of interest among present members were raised.  Everyone agreed that individuals at the meeting who are part of the proposal or have students involved would leave the meeting prior to this discussion.  Fujimura reported the ESTS editorial board’s response to the Council response to board questions submitted to Council in August.  One board recommendation was that current editor Daniel Kleinman be renewed for three years.  Fujimura requested that Council reject this recommendation due to a prior decision to open a search and send a call for new editorship proposals.  Marres asked Zuiderent-Jerak to summarize his concern about the board’s response to Council.  Zuiderent-Jerak indicated that his concerns were expressed in edits made to the original response and his main concern is that Council remain on good speaking terms with the editorial board.  Fujimura indicated that editorial board member Lucy Suchman agreed that we should move on and reminded Council that the editorial board is the current editor’s board, not Council’s.

Since we were approaching the two-hour point of the meeting, Fujimura asked whether we should table the discussion.  Marres recommended that we continue the meeting.

Marres felt that since the journal is currently doing just fine, the key question for Council is whether to conclude the search and vote on the one submitted proposal.  Invernizzi interjected that the editorship transition will likely be difficult and needs time.  Marres responded that the original stated timeline for transition was not reasonable.

The conversation then moved to discussion about the editor transition.  Fujimura asked members of Council and a guest with connections to a proposal to leave the meeting, which they did before discussion ensued.  Fujimura raised the possibility that a year’s extension to Kleinman’s editorship might improve the transition.  Fujimura also recommended that we vote on the current proposal received by the Publications Committee.  Marres responded that to do justice to a proposal it should be evaluated as part of a set of proposals.  An extension of the search, for Marres, would be reasonable.  Fujimura held a different opinion, finding the current proposal innovative and Council could make a decision up or down of this submitted proposal.  Fujimura felt that the proposed direction for ESTS contained in the current proposal does not replicate what we already have in SSS and ST&HV and that it gives 4S a different image.  Zuiderent-Jerak felt that we should not vote on it right now.  He felt that all the positive things said about the current proposal could also be said about a second forthcoming proposal. Zuiderent-Jerak indicated that the current proposal had been discussed in New Orleans right after it was received, but the Publications Committee decided to offer six more weeks for the other proposal to be finalized.  During those six weeks, one member of the editorial team from this second proposal withdrew.  Zuiderent-Jerak has been working with the primary editor, encouraging development of the proposal for purposes of comparison and to avoid external criticism if a new editorial team were to be accepted with close ties to a past 4S president.  Zuiderent-Jerak felt that Council’s better relationship with the current editorial board will position the second editorial team to move forward.  A rushed decision now might take on the appearance of a conflict of interest. Zuiderent-Jerak recommended a delay in the decision.  Marres indicated that the key question facing Council is whether one proposal provides a good basis for making a decision about an editorial team for a young, developing journal.  Fujimura clarified that it is quite typical for societies to have very few editorship proposals.  However, Marres felt, procedurally, that we should not commit ourselves to making a decision based on one proposal, when another is in the formulation stage.  Fujimura agreed that Council will hold off on a vote but expressed concern about how to communicate the delay.  Fujimura added that the editorial team involved younger scholars who have planned out their careers in this context. Zuiderent-Jerak suggested that since he was conducting the search and was responsible for communication to that point, he continue the role of communicating with potential editors.  Hsin-Hsing Chen added that the removal of current tension between Council and editorial board will make it more comfortable for the second proposer.  Two proposals will give more legitimacy to the more competitive one.

A decision was made to hold both December and January meetings, with the latter devoted to a decision about the journal editorship position.

Joan Fujimura adjourned the meeting at approximately 10:30 am US EST.